The series of workplace mishaps in two construction sites, a geothermal power plant, and a coal mine that caused the death of 20 workers and injured more than 20 others over the period of 22 days last month points to the need of government to hire more safety and health inspectors.
“These incidents are not isolated cases anymore. Common denominator in all incidents points to the fact that the country only has less than 1,000 government safety inspectors. This figure is very low from the required minimum of 2,500 who should conduct surprise safety and health workplace inspections at construction sites and dangerous work environments in the country,” said Gerard Seno, general-secretary of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).
On February 3, five workers were killed and 12 others injured when scaffoldings gave way while they were constructing a 76-meter high smokestack for SPC Malaya Thermal Power Plant in Pililia, Rizal. On Feb. 13, 7 miners died and 3 were missing when a landslide swamped the open pit coal mine of the Semirara Mining Corp. in Caluya, Antique.
On February 24, a construction worker was killed and another was injured when a scaffolding fell on them while working in an elevator shaft of EVM Convention Center in Culiat, Quezon City.
On March 1, seven workers were killed and 8 others were missing when they were inundated with landslide while building a pipe shelter retaining wall for the Energy development Corporation’s geothermal plant in Upper Miahao, Leyte.
“If we have more inspectors from the Bureau of Working Conditions of the Labor department, we can minimize the number of workplace accidents and reduce casualties by conducting surprise inspections. These inspectors are tasked to ensuring occupational safety and health standards are complied upon by employers, contractors, and subcontractors particularly in mine and construction sites. Amendments of the rules on occupational safety and health standards alone are not sufficient,” Seno stressed, adding: “Let us try hiring more inspectors.”
The Labor department has convened a technical working group on scaffolds in reviewing and amending OSH standards in the light of these mishaps. The Construction Industry Tripartite Council in which Seno is a member is poised to submit its recommendations next week.